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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Acts 21:15-26 - Paul reaches Jerusalem

Paul and his friends reach Jerusalem. It is striking that some believers from Caesarea went with them on the journey of over sixty miles. The desire of those early Christians to share fellowship was very strong and they were prepared to go out of their way to have it. There was no obvious reason for the disciples from Caesarea to make this journey apart from brotherly love.

Luke mentions the great welcome they received in Jerusalem, which is notable because most of Paul’s companions were Gentiles. They also received the endorsement of the leaders of the church in Jerusalem who praised God for what he had done through Paul in various places. Their delight in hearing about the progress of the gospel indicates that their focus was on the name of Jesus being glorified.

The leaders of the Jerusalem church then explained to Paul the situation that they faced. They too had seen numerical growth, although inevitably their converts as Jews were keen to keep the ceremonial law. The leaders were aware that false rumours about Paul were circulating, and they thought it would be best if he would do something to dispel the claim that he was teaching converted Jews not to practice the law of Moses.

Paul was willing to do this. After all, he was willing to become all things to all men if it would help progress the gospel. As a Jew, he also had connections with his nation’s past for which he was grateful to God. So he had no difficulty in participating in the suggested proposal, especially as the Jerusalem leaders had no intention to force Jewish customs on Paul’s Gentile companions.

The willingness of both leaders (Paul and James) to engage in activities that would remove potential barriers is obvious. Neither saw any reason for causing unnecessary offence, and if engaging in an activity would help the cause of Jesus they were prepared to do it. The fact that the suggestion by James later turned out to be ineffective does not mean that his proposed method was wrong or that Paul made a mistake in accepting it. Sometimes the wisest choice does not bring about an easy situation. To argue backwards from the outcome and to deduce thus that the proposal was wrong is not a wise way of looking at a decision. The fact that a wise decision brings unwanted consequences is not evidence that the decision was wrong. God has his own reasons for bringing about unforeseen outcomes to our choices.

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